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Campaign for a new community centre in Stoke Newington

A church in Stoke Newington is on a mission to improve its offering to locals and charities by creating a new building. The people of St Mary’s are looking to demolish the present rooms (behind the iconic Victorian church) and construct a new St Mary’s Centre in their place. The plans are to create a larger space for charities and community groups to use as well as smaller rooms for private meetings and improved wheelchair access.

The rooms at the back of the church currently accommodate around 50 people and are used weekly by Hackney Migrant Centre, Hackney Food Bank, the Night Shelter and for diet and yoga classes, as well as being available to hire on an ad hoc basis for gatherings, parties and meetings. The plans being drawn up aim to improve facilities for all these groups and more.

Elizabeth Smallman, a parishioner who is helping to fundraise for the project, said: “Our current community rooms are no longer fit for purpose and, with affordable community space in high demand, we’re determined to create a building for everyone. Five years ago we transformed the Old Tudor Church opposite to make provision for an Arts Space and now we’re focused on bringing these rooms, behind the big church, back to life for the enjoyment of all. The projects using the rooms have simply outgrown them and need better facilities; the Night Shelter for example, needs decent showers and a good kitchen.

“Sharing hospitality with strangers’ is at the heart of the Church’s mission statement and these community rooms really represent that. We’d like them to be used by people from all walks of life - an affordable space where all kinds of community activity can take place. We want the people of Stoke Newington to benefit as much as possible.”

The project will cost an estimated £1.6 million. Much of the funding has come from the sale of a property in the area and the Church hopes to receive some charitable grants. But a big campaign is being launched to raise additional funds. They hope to raise around £250,000.

Claire Garrett, another parishioner, added: “We’re holding a food market on the weekend of May 20th and 21st with live entertainment and kids’ activities to raise funds for the project and would love to hear from those who’d like to get involved by taking a stall, providing musical entertainment or helping out. Stallholders will be charged £25 and can keep all their profits. It will also be an opportunity for us to share the plans and find out what local people would like to see happening here.”

St Mary’s Church was designed by the prolific English Gothic revival architect Sir Gilbert Scott and is Grade II Listed so care is being taken to construct something sympathetic to the historic building. A consultation about the plans is due to start in May. If planning permission is granted, the church hopes to begin building in the summer of 2018.

To find out more about the proposals visit http://www.stmaryn16.org/the-new-st-marys-centre.html or email: stmarystokenewington@btinternet.com.

    Sharing hospitality with strangers’ is at the heart of the Church’s mission statement

    Posted 16th May 2017

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